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Veterans Courts

What is a Veterans Court?

A Veterans Court or the Veterans Treatment Court is a "special court" that handles veterans' minor crimes, notably those with service-related diseases.

Although most veterans benefit from their military experience, a rising number of combat veterans have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), other mental health illnesses, or brain damage.

Several states and municipalities have created dedicated Veterans Treatment Courts to help veterans with these challenges prevent them from getting into more severe legal problems.

The first Veterans Court was founded in 2008 in Buffalo, New York, and used as a model for future courts in the United States.

Why Have A Special Court For Veterans?

There is ample evidence that many veterans had trouble transitioning to civilian life. Many soldiers went for long periods without getting any care. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and local courts acknowledge that many veterans today are coming home with mental health difficulties that, left addressed, can lead to far more significant problems.

When a veteran breaks the law, it may be a symptom of untreated issues. The Veterans Court allows the VA, local support groups, and local communities to engage veterans and give therapy as an alternative to imprisonment.

Even though most courts deal with veterans from all historical periods, recently returning veterans in legal difficulties drive communities to create these courts.

The Goal of Veterans Treatment Courts

The Veterans Treatment Courts separate people with mental health disorders and homelessness from the standard legal system and provide them treatment and skills for rehabilitation and reintegration.

The courts reduce the needless imprisonment of veterans with mental health issues. Veterans facing criminal charges who require mental health or drug use treatment may qualify for Veterans Treatment Court in many localities.

It treats veterans with addiction, mental illness, and co-occurring conditions. They foster sobriety, rehabilitation, and stability via a coordinated approach with the VA, veteran mentors, and veteran and family support groups.

Benefits of Veterans Treatment Court

This court can enhance results for vets and benefit society. Treatment will help veterans remain sober to manage mental health difficulties better, reducing the risk of suicide and legal issues.

Veterans who engage in treatment court are less likely to be jailed, employed, and receive VA benefits. These initiatives assist veterans in retaining secure, independent housing, which can reduce homelessness among veterans.

What Types of Cases are Handled by Veterans Treatment Courts?

Depending on the area, treatment courts handle a range of offenses. These violations include:

  • Public drunkenness
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Probation or parole violation
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Domestic dispute
  • Delinquency or non-payment of child support
  • Drug possession or trafficking
  • Vandalism
  • Theft
  • Robbery
  • Homicide
  • Sexual assault

The most frequent offenses handled by the Veterans Treatment Court include:

  • Driving under the influence
  • Public drunkenness
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Drug possession

What are Veterans Treatment Court Procedures?

Most veterans get treatment via the VA's health network; however, other courts deal with unqualified veterans. These veterans get community health care.

While Veterans Treatment Court permits the veteran to stay in the community while completing treatment, a judge routinely checks on their progress. If a veteran fails drug tests or disobeys court orders, the court will impose community service, fines, prison time, or transfer to a standard criminal court.

The court's model includes regular court appearances (biweekly in the early stages of the program), mandated treatment sessions, and frequent and random drug and alcohol testing.

Early, consistent, and rigorous judicially-supervised treatment increases the chance of effective recovery in Veterans Treatment Courts. It acts as a "one-stop-shop" to connect veterans with Veterans Service Organizations, VA, and volunteer veteran mentors.

Eligibility for Veterans Treatment Court

Location-specific eligibility criteria for participation in Veterans Treatment Court differ. Some courts can accept both misdemeanor and felony charges against veterans, while others will take just one. In addition, not all courts get veterans accused of severe crimes or domestic abuse, while some do.

Veterans can participate in treatment court, but they must be willing to do so. Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) is a VA program that will evaluate whether a veteran is qualified for enrollment in this court and assist them in enrolling.

Disqualifying Criteria

Not every accused is eligible in this court. The following factors exclude defendants from consideration:

  • Cases of murder, arson, voluntary manslaughter, Megan's Law Offenses, crimes against minors, abduction, escape, robbery, and prisoner assault
  • No treatment necessary for the defendant
  • Out-of-county or out-of-state pending criminal accusations
  • The defendant's physical condition or mental health diagnosis prevents him from participating in court.

The Veterans Treatment Court Team reserves the right to consider other disqualifying criteria, including but not limited to:

  • Sentences depend on how bad the crime was and how often it happened before
  • Previous participation in a specialized treatment court
  • Defendant's unwillingness/inability to stop using lawfully prescribed controlled substances or over-the-counter medications that affect drug screening and prostitution

Program Length

The target for the duration of participation in the Veteran Treatment Court Program is 14 months. But, this will rely on the participant's capacity to accomplish program objectives. So, the length of the program will differ for each participant.

In rare instances, participants may need more than 18 months to finish the program. The committee maintains the right to reevaluate anyone's case after twenty-four months to determine whether the participant is still a good fit for the program.

Assessments and Treatment

The VA Office will provide drug, alcohol, and mental health treatments to all qualifying individuals. If the VA can't give enough therapy, the participant will have to go to community-based treatment.

The Veterans Court Program will have a Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist (VJO). Each participant will have an initial examination with the VJO.

After the assessment, the participant will get appropriate assistance. The VJO will provide the Veterans Treatment Court Team with frequent reports on the participant's treatment progress. The team will collaborate to offer all services necessary for the participant to achieve their treatment objectives.

Veterans Treatment Court Sessions

Veterans Treatment Court sessions will monitor participants' compliance, progress, and engagement twice a month in open court.

It will examine the participant's progress before the sessions. The court will inform the participant of any case management and treatment plan changes.

Typically, these court sessions include rewards and punishments.

Veterans Treatment Court Phases

The Veterans Treatment Court Program contains five phases and 14 months of supervision, treatment, and monitoring. Before proceeding to the next phase, each participant must meet specific criteria.

All phases offer an acceptable and therapeutically effective assemblage of activities and periodic positive reinforcement of participation via transition. Each participant's probation officer will supervise.

As each participant completes each phase's criteria, the probation officer notes it in the participant's file and meets a Supervision Plan Form with the participant. The Probation Office recommends the participant go on. The Veterans Treatment Court Team will decide on progress.


Veterans Treatment Court has tight supervision. The number of times a participant must report to the probation officer depends on their program phase. The probation officer must verify employment, AA or NA meetings, counseling, sponsor engagement, financial commitments, and drug abstinence (via drug testing). Initial appointments are longer due to paperwork.

As directed by the probation officer, participants must provide an employer letter verifying their employment status. In addition to presenting their meeting sheets as confirmation of attendance, participants must also provide receipts as evidence of payment. Treatment providers will submit general progress sheets to confirm counseling attendance.

The probation officer must also ensure that participants comply with all court orders and agreements. The referral of participants to other agencies for assistance with their rehabilitation is another component of supervision. Each step of the program has its own supervision needs.


Veterans Treatment Court will terminate participants who reject or can't comply with program goals or pose a supervision risk.

Many factors go into the decision to terminate someone, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Response of the client to treatment, meetings, employment, and community service
  • Integrity throughout the program
  • Number of treatment attempts

The participant should receive written notice if the Veterans Treatment Court Team recommends termination. The court must set a termination hearing date.

Each probation violation, including missing appointments (with the probation officer, VJO Group, VA treatment services, and community treatment programs) and positive drug tests, can result in imprisonment.


Participants who neglect to adhere to program obligations (supervision, treatment, urinalysis, etc.) will face the consequences. Sanctions show that there are immediate consequences for improper conduct.

The Veterans Treatment Court team acknowledges that the participant is a strong team element. In choosing the suitable penalties, the team will question the participant about what sanctions may be helpful to the participant and what may have benefited the participant in the past to address the behavior effectively.

Some examples of sanctions include:

  • Cautionary words from the judge
  • Expanded drug testing
  • Community service with extra hours
  • Journaling
  • Regression to the preceding phase
  • Delay graduation till the following phase
  • Courtroom punishment box
  • Dismissal from the Drug Treatment Court
  • Letters of reprimand
  • Essays
  • Enhanced Community Restriction

Which States Have Veterans Treatment Courts?

In the United States, there are over 461 veteran treatment courts. The majority of states have veteran treatment courts. By visiting the website of the National Center for State Courts, you can discover more about the exact sites for veterans' treatment courts in your state or near to you.